Monday, June 4, 2007

Arrival in Ulaanbaatar

I arrived in UB two days ago. I had perhaps the most bizarre flight I have ever experienced. Not because of turbulence or any scare from the aircraft itself, but from 10 very very drunk Czech men who were on board the flight. One of them was right across the aisle for me and did not leave me alone for 5-6 hours. He was harassing the stewardesses, touching them and me, and then eventually passed out laying down the the middle of the aisle after looking through all the overhead compartments for his second bottle of Jack Daniels, which, thankfully, he never found. He smelled of about 10 days worth of whiskey and had the stench of cigarette smoke all over him too. The stewardesses just tried to ignore him and I had to tell him more than once to leave me alone. One of his drunk friends asked me to go on a date once we arrived in Mongolia, and I said, no thanks! It was a long flight, but thanks to my ipod I was able to tune them out. They were all going to Mongolia to build a dam...wonder how that project will turn out?

Since I arrived in Mongolia everything has been great. My host, Zaya, is a 33 year old lawyer, and he and his girlfriend, Gigi, live in a big apartment on the outskirts of the city. I'm staying with them and they have been incredible hosts, making me homemade Mongolian food and helping to arrange meetings. On the first day, which was Sunday, we went to the black market, which is a huge exchange center and crossroads where all kinds of goods are sold--from saddles to high heels, from handmade snuff bottles to television sets, from sunglasses to gers. People from all over the country make a long trek here to buy supplies for their communities. I took lots of photos and will try to post some of them soon.

Yesterday I met with directors of two television stations in UB -- Channel 1 and Eagle TV. I also toured their production studios and facilities and these meetings were fascinating. I also interviewed a Mobicom (mobile phone) dealer and visited major center of Mobicom where mobile phones, computers and electronic communication equipment are sold. This was also very interesting and I was able to interview men who repair cell phones and salvage parts from old phones that no longer work. So much happened yesterday I am still taking it all in and have been writing in my journal and taking photos nonstop.

Today I have meetings with reps from mobile phone corporations and will interview some phone workers on the street. The city is bustling with activity and is a very exciting place to visit. I am so glad I am here and am already learning so much. The weather is hot and dry, like Montana in the summer. Better run... I have a meeting soon!

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